He came in with a lot of hype and expectation, and in his first professional outing, Chet Holmgren shone.
The Summer League is an off-season competition in which teams predominately play rookies, second year and fringe NBA players to give minutes to developing talents and see who fits and who doesn’t.
In the 98-77 victory over the Utah Jazz, Holmgren wowed the fans in his 24 minutes on the court, setting records as he went.
The 20-year-old big man finished with 23 points – including 4-of-6 attempts from three-point range – seven rebounds and four assists.
He also finished with six blocks, the most ever in an NBA Summer League game.
When he was told afterwards that he had broken the block record, Holmgren said he wanted more. “Only six? That’s the record? Oh, well I’m coming to break it again,” he told ESPN in his post-game TV interview.
According to ESPN, Holmgren became the first player in Summer League history to record at least five blocks and hit four three-pointers.
Playing alongside much of the Thunder’s vast array of young talent – Josh Giddey, Alekesej Pokusevski, Jaylin Williams and Jalen Williams – Holmgren’s size and shooting ability stood out immediately.
The seven-footer from Gonzaga locked up the paint with his size and displayed some of the crafty offensive skills he’s already learned.
He emphatically dunked the ball to score his first points, hit a three-point shot in the face of seven-foot-six Tacko Fall and hit a fadeaway mid-range shot that bore an uncanny similarity to NBA Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki.
“Shout out to my teammates for setting me up, talking to me, just putting me in position to be successful,” Holmgren said, with his arm around Giddey.
“Shout out to this guy right here,” he said, pointing to Giddey. “Double-double with assists. Great night for him and that helped me out a lot.”
Giddey was effusive in his praise of Holmgren. “The hype that he came in with, the way he played tonight was big for us,” the Australian guard said.
“Being a high pick like that, there’s a lot of pressure coming in, and he handled it as good as he could’ve. It makes my job easy playing with someone like him. He can stretch the floor, finish at the rim. He protects me, he’s got my back on the defensive end. So love playing with him. It’s been one game, and the chemistry’s only getting stronger.”
The Thunder’s coaching staff was also impressed by Holmgren’s debut performance.
“I thought he was really good offensively. The thing that impressed me the most with him was how well he played within our style,” Kameron Woods, the Thunder’s summer league team coach, said.
“He obviously had a great game, but the most impressive part to me was he did it within our offense. It looked like team basketball out there and he found success within what we’re doing.”